French Candles That Smell Like Warm Croissants and Armagnac?
Amanda de Montal brings the scents of her childhood to luxury candle-making
Toss those scented candles gathering dust in your closet!
Amanda, a former marketing executive turned entrepreneur, looked to her Armagnac-producing family roots in Gascony to create the eco-friendly range that includes candles, diffusers, home fragrances, and wrapped wax “candies.”
Candles That Recall The Scent of Baking Croissants
The 10 sumptuous and unusual scents in the collection range from the deep, seductive Armagnac Ardente — which uses a hearty dose of Armagnac from her family’s Armagnac de Montal production — to the light and crisp Citrus Basilicum. The Armagnac candle originated from de Montal’s memory of being four years old, when her father brought her to caves to teach her about the aromas of Armagnac and the oak barrels in which the liquor aged. The citrusy fragrance, bursting with lemon zest, mint, basil, and tangerine notes, is inspired by the open markets that Amanda still visits. The comforting Memoria Infantia, and its notes of cinnamon, vanilla, and caramel, recall the smells of warm croissants and hot chocolate that Amanda grew up eating for breakfast.
The artisanal manner in which this collection is created makes it unique.
For the actual scents, de Montal worked with French nez, master perfumer Jean-Michel Duriez, who has developed perfumes for Jean Patou, Rochas, and French designer Pierre Hardy, among others, and who recently launched his signature perfume collection. The raw materials used are the same as those for the luxury personal fragrance market — concentrated between 4 and 12 percent — producing intense, long-lasting fragrances.
Sustainable and Reusable Glass and Holders
The candles are made primarily from vegetal waxes from sunflowers planted on the de Montal estate, beeswax from France, and European soy wax. De Montal cannot say the candles are “organic” because of the need for small doses of paraffin, which help stabilize the fragrance under heat and regulate the amount of smoke a candle gives off while burning. The candles are made by the Manufacture Française de Bougies, a Provencal company that brings both high-tech and artisanal craftsmanship to its candle making. She sources the glass vases from a female-owned glassworks in Aix-en-Provence; their bubbled surface replicates the shagreen skin sofa in de Montal’s father’s office. De Montal strove to make the collection sustainable and as a result, when the candle in the large vase is fully burned it can be replaced by a wax refill. The smaller holders can be repurposed for things like small bouquets or tea lights.
Learning From Her Mistakes
De Montal began her career as a marketing executive at French cosmetics giant L’Oréal. After moving to Brazil, she launched a line of swimwear, Colors do Brasil, with the goal of bringing Brazilian sizzle to fit European bodies. She closed that business a few years after moving back to Paris, admitting she was “enamored with the story” of her collection but had not developed a long-term strategy. She mistakenly opened a swimwear boutique at a time when cruise collections were not taking off in Paris, a city that has a long and cold winter and spring season.
With her home fragrances, de Montal is building sales slowly and deliberately first in her home market of France, where, for example, hers was the only new home fragrance line to launch at Galeries Lafayette’s new flagship on the Champs Elysées or via AmandaDeMontal.com, which offers global shipping. In the US, the line is available from a handful of home décor boutiques including Grayson de Vere in Greenwich, CT, and Como Beach in Palm Beach, FL. De Montal is recruiting brand ambassadors to host private sales events in their homes and she is starting a cautious wholesale strategy targeting upscale specialty stores.
Creating a New Artisanal Category for Her Country
Why scented candles when there are so many on the market, both cheap and high end?
“I was speaking with a local mayor near my hometown and we were discussing the economic crisis. I asked him how the region could be revitalized thinking that luxury isn’t only about foie gras,” de Montal explains, referring to one of Gascony’s most famous products. “I came home, lit a candle and it became obvious: I had to tell the story of my family and Armagnac in a different way. Armagnac is wonderful, but very masculine. But a candle is soothing and a great lifestyle product.”
Prices for de Montal’s candles start at about $75 and range to $295 for the large Armagnac Ardente. The large refills range from $163 to $185; diffusers cost $130 or $230; home fragrances are $60 (all prices at current exchange rates).